Summit (Group 2)
The Summit Girls lost an extremely close race at Sectionals, losing out to Bernards 55-57. Will the Lady Hilltoppers get revenge at Groups? I think so. All season Summit has relied on Senior Gillian McIllroy to lead the pack and she has not disappointed. McIllroy is undefeated this Championship season and is in a good position to advance to MOC’s for the first time. How does this help Summit against Bernards? At Sectionals, 1 point separated McIllroy from Paige Petty, Bernards # 1. However McIllroy beat Petty by over twenty seconds. In a larger meet like groups, there will be plenty of runners between McIllroy and Petty, increasing McIllroy’s worth to the team. Other than their #1’s, Summit and Bernards match up pretty evenly so a good performance from McIllroy should be enough for Summit to get their revenge.
So the Summit girls can beat Bernards at Groups, will they move on to MOC’s as a team? Unfortunately for the Lady Hilltoppers, Group 2 contains some of the most talented girls teams in the state. Both Rumson- Fair Haven and Haddonfield have been ranked inside the top ten for most of the season, with the two teams ranked as high as second and third respectively by mile-split earlier in the season. Rumson-Fair Haven are in a class of their own, leaving the rest of the group 2 teams to fight it out for the final qualifying spot. Top contenders for 3rd place include Holmdel, Bernards, Summit, and Robbinsville. Holmdel and Summit match up pretty evenly, the performances of the 2-4 girls at Sectionals are very similar, while Holmdel appears to have a slight advantage with their first and fifth girl. But Summit’s fifth finisher at sectionals has finished as high as second for them this season. If she can put together a good performance, things between the two schools will be much closer. Ultimately, I think Holmdel is just a little too strong and Summit will finish fourth. (Oh, the Agony!) However, Gillian McIllroy’s season will continue at MOC’s. Brianna Gess is the class of the field and will run away with the race (see what I did there). Other than Gess however, McIllroy can compete with anyone in the field. In a first for the Johnson Poll, I’m going to be conservative (what?!) and pick McIllroy to finish third.
The Summit boys won their third sectional title on Saturday, edging out Bernards 42-49 despite having an off day. In winning when they were not at their best, Summit showed just how strong of a team they really are. Junior Mitchell Booth stepped up big time to finish second behind his teammate Leland Jones. After taking the top two spots, Summit basically had the race wrapped up.
In all of my previous previews for groups, I’ve weighed the likely outcomes and tried to give a range of places in which the teams would finish in. But that seems a little too tame for the Johnson Poll. So I’m just gonna go out and say it, the Summit Boys will advance to the Meet of Champions. The only uncertainty I have about Summit is whether they’ll finish second or third. Haddonfield will win, like they normally do. It will be between Summit and Holmdel for second and third. Bernards probably has the fourth best team and Summit still beat them on an off day.
Here’s how the race between Summit and Holmdel will go down. Leland Jones will win the race (more on that later) and the Barlev brothers from Holmdel will finish between 3rd and 8th. Mitch Booth, Summits #2, will also finish in the top ten, probably between 7-10. So the average scores for the top two runners of each team will be very similar. Where Summit has an advantage is in their 3-6 men. When Summit is on top of their game, there is very little difference between their 2-4 runners, about fifteen seconds or so. This gap may widen a bit with Booth running well, but having your number two man run well has never hurt a team. I also like Summit because of the interchangeability of their 5 and 6 man. Greg Casagrande and Pat Murray have run very close together all year, and were only separated by three seconds at sectionals. In my sectional preview I called for a big race from Murray, and I still think he is due. Holmdel has a huge gap between their 5th and 6th, and you never know how athletes will respond to the stress of groups. All things considered, I think Summit will finish second. (As much as it pains me to pick Summit to do well.)
How good is Leland Jones? I don’t know. The experts probably don’t know. He probably doesn’t know. I’d say he’s really good. (to reiterate, I don’t like Summit) He still hasn’t really been challenged all year and hasn’t lost since who knows when. There are some other very good runners in the group, runners who have beaten Leland before, but the way he’s been running recently I think he will be very tough to beat.
Recap of the Preview: The Johnson Measure
With this entire group preview I’ve been pretty vague about the chances of every team. For example, Millburn has a decent chance of advancing, Chatham is on the bubble, Summit boys are in. But to quantify all this insecurity a little bit, I’ve decided to add a new wrinkle to the Johnson Poll: the Johnson Measure. The Johnson Measure is based off of FloTracks Kolas Calculator, which uses complicated mathematical algorithms predicts which cross country teams will make NCAA XC Nationals. So without further ado, here’s the Johnson Poll Johnson Measure! (By the way all numbers are completely arbitrary and have no statistical backing whatsoever)
Millburn Boys: 65% Chance of Advancing
Millburn Girls: 70% Chance (slightly more likely than da boyz)
Chatham Boys: 40% Chance (good team but group 4 is taking all the Wild Card Spots)
Chatham Girls: e^4*0+π (no real chance of advancing)
New Providence Boys: 40% (same deal as Chatham)
New Providence Girls: 40%
Kent Place: 60% (I think they’re gonna make it)
GL Girls: β+π+£ (symbols are fun, no chance)
GL Boys: 5% (maybe one day…)
Summit Girls: 45%
-Until Next Time
Summit Boys: 90% (almost a sure thing)